EDITOR'S LETTER • SOM1109 • OPEN DOORS
Danita lives in Juarez. It's a place that exists within the state of Chihuahua, México — a town where most families live within not-so-colorful surroundings as they seek ways throughout the year to count blessings, and to keep alive their hopes for the future. I'm not surprised that Danita describes the Advent calendar that she presents on page 14 as a "Calendar of Gratitude." Because she is an artist who knows that we have choices. We can choose to gripe about what we don't have, or we can choose to count the blessings that we do have. We can choose to bemoan the past, or we can choose to have hope for the future.
One of the most special holiday rituals practiced within Mexican culture is called Las Posadas (Spanish for "the inns"). It's a time when loved ones gather together to re-enact the long road that Mary and Joseph traveled that fateful night long ago, in search of a door that would open and lead to the lodging that they desperately needed. During Las Posadas, the indiviuals who play the roles of Mary and Joseph go from door to door, only to be turned away by those who play the roles of assorted innkeepers. At the end of Las Posadas, Mary and Joeph finally arrive at a door that opens. It is at this point of this grand ritual when all the attendees start celebrating with food, music, and festivities.
On page 42, Rebecca Sower shares a stunning piece of artwork that incorporates a thoughtful line of text that says, "Be an opener of doors." When I saw this piece, it reminded me of Las Posadas. It also reminded me of Les Misérables — the musical based on Victor Hugo's novel. In the musical rendition, there is an early scene when a wrongly imprisoned Jean Valjean escapes jail and finds a door opened for him by Bishop Myriel. As Jean Valjean tries to leave in the middle of the night after stealing the Bishop's precious silverware, he is caught by authorities. At what seems like his impending doom, Bishop Myriel tells the authorities that the silver had been his gift to Jean Valjean, and that in fact Jean Valjean forgot to take the most important gift of all: two silver candlesticks, which he hands over to him in front of the authorities. For me, this is one of the most powerful scenes of benevolence in all of literature ... a scene that brings me to tears every time I think of it.
Those who are familiar with Les Misérables know that Jean Valjean uses the silver to gain momentum to build an honorable life, where he works to "pay forward" the kindness that had been given to him by Bishop Myriel. A success story indeed.
Prior to my career in publishing when I was a social worker, I also had success stories. But I also had stories of failure. And after seven years of being a social worker, I realized that doors can become opened equally to everyone ... and while some will choose to walk through them and gain traction to build better lives, others will not. It is a hard lesson to learn ... one that I have continued learning (sometimes very painfully) in my role as editor.
So what are we do to then? Keep doors shut? Turn lights off? Keep Mary and Joseph out? Say "no" to Jean Valjean? To what end?
This holiday season, I realize more than ever, the preciousness of life. And I resolve to join Rebecca, Danita, Bishop Myriel, and the countless others in the world who choose time and time again — even at the risk of being hurt and disappointed — to be an opener of doors and believer of hope.
Yes, it's tricky to open our doors, open our selves. But in the long run, I believe it's far riskier to keep them closed and chance living an existence where joyful stories of success are absent.
[This Letter from the Editor-in-Chief was published in the November/December 2009 issue of Somerset Studio.]